'There Was A Bomb Threat' — Nothing Prepares You For That Call.

by Jill Patir
DIETER NAGL / Getty Images

Nothing could’ve prepared me for that call.

I’d read about these threats made to Jewish Community Centers around the country, I’ve been tracking the increase in their frequency, and I guess in the back of my mind, I knew it was only a matter of time until it was our turn.

But nothing could’ve prepared me for that call.

I work at a synagogue, we work closely with the Anti-Defamation League, and we see the correspondence that is sent to all local Jewish institutions when a threat is issued anywhere, in our city or elsewhere. I know the precautions that are taken. I know what we have been instructed to do should we receive a threat.

But nothing could’ve prepared me for that call.

I attended a security meeting at our local JCC, where my 1-year-old attends preschool. I heard what measures were being taken, what training the staff and teachers have been through, how involved Homeland Security has been, and I walked away feeling confident. Confident that this center was prepared should something happen.

But nothing could’ve prepared me for that call.

“Do you have both kids with you?”

I had taken the day off to spend with my oldest daughter and had sent my youngest to school that day. It’s impossible to articulate the feeling I have now, looking back, knowing that I made the choice to send him to school when I didn’t have to. If something would’ve happened, had the threat come to fruition, and he didn’t actually need to be there, and I had dropped him off anyway, I would’ve never forgiven myself. I shudder to think about this. Talk about mom guilt.

“No, I just have Talya. Come join us! Ryan’s at school.”

“There was a bomb threat called into the JCC this morning. Everything is fine right now, but I wanted to let you know.”

My heart stopped. My entire body went numb.

I hung up the phone and looked around the indoor playground where I had met up with some friends. I told my daughter I would be back, looked at my friend/fellow mom and uttered the words, “I have to go get Ryan. There was a bomb threat.”

It was pouring rain, and I was about a solid 30 minutes from his school. I drove like a bat out of hell — no wait — I drove like a mother who had just heard that her baby’s life had been threatened because of the religion he was born into. I made the drive in 11 minutes.

Let that sink in.

I was driving to rescue my baby, whose school, full of other babies, was in danger of being blown up because it was a Jewish institution. Hatred. Ignorance. When did this become the norm?

The email we received was intentionally vague, stating that there had been a threat and the building had been evacuated, and the kids were safe. Don’t come pick up your child.

Don’t come get my child? I understand the safety issues here. I understand that by coming on the premises I was endangering my own life. I understand that there could’ve been someone watching the entire process to truly know how best to implement his or her plan.

But what you may not understand is that none of that mattered in that moment. I needed to get to my baby, and if that meant risking my own life, so be it. The thoughts I had racing through my head on that drive as I attempted to speak (in-between sobs) to my husband are those that a parent should never experience. That conversation should’ve never had to happen.

As I turned onto the street, I began to talk myself into driving full-force through the gate, should it be closed.

It wasn’t closed, yet. As I ran frantically into the school, a woman explained where the kids had been evacuated. I raced to my car, pulled up to the building, and waving my security badge in hand, I made a mad dash to get my child in my arms.

I’ll never forget the look on his teacher’s face. “Is this real? Please tell me you know what’s going on.”

She searched my expression for some sort of comfort that I just couldn’t offer. I told her I had no idea, but all I knew is that I had to see my kid.

On my way out, I looked over my shoulder at a warehouse-type building full of kids. Laughing, singing, playing, and blissfully unaware of what was happening or why they were there. I later found out they had been told it was a field trip, and it was up to the parents’ discretion as to how much information they wanted to share with their little ones.

The sense of relief I felt when I had that baby safely in my possession and off property was like being given a second chance at life. As I drove away, I felt eerily grateful that he was too young to understand what he had just been through. He’ll never remember this, but I sure as hell will never forget.

Sure, this was just the next wave of threats that have been issued to JCCs in over 20 states, but nothing could’ve prepared me for that call.